I am sure that unless you avoid all media, you probably recall the famous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction and attendant brouhaha. Fines were levied, charges leveled, appeals made, and now…. The Appeal Has Been Won!
“Wait a minute,” you might say. “That was television. What does it have to do with radio?”
Well, the ramifications of this case are already being felt throughout all broadcast media. Corey Deitz over at About.com sums it up nicely:
From the time this incident occurred during the 2004 Superbowl performance of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, all broadcast media licensed by the government has been treading on eggshells for fear of fines. In response to this wave of paranoia, I created “The R.I.P List” (Radio in Persecution) compiling a chronology of major events in the Indecency Issue.
It is wonderful news to hear that The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 20 that the FCC “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” when it fined against CBS television over the now famous Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident. I’m sure that CBS is thrilled that the $550,000 indecency fine has been dropped, and broadcasters, regardless of medium, are breathing a sigh of relief.
Mr. Deitz’s RIP list (linked above) will give you a good idea of the battle that has been going on between an FCC trying to hyper-extend its powers and the broadcast radio industry. In addition you might want to take a quick look at another of his articles from back in 2004 when Ms. Jacksons’ nipple started all of this contention. In it, he looks directly at the censorship clause of the 1934 Communications Act and then asks, “Is the FCC Breaking the Law?“
I think we need to identify instances of “chilling effects” like these and subject them to scrutiny. Attempts to browbeat the media through fines and intimidation should not be tolerated. (Can you tell that Edward R. Murrow is a hero of mine?)